Thursday, July 18, 2019

Nicolas Winding Refn and Ed Brubaker's "Too Old to Die Young" Streaming Premiere: Jun 14

Successively since "Drive", his 2011 international breakout hit starring Ryan Gosling, Nicolas Winding Refn has produced a distinct, highly stylized body of work that has become defiantly and increasingly disorienting and unnaturalistic. His following films, "Only God Forgives", and "Neon Demon" embraced atmosphere over tangibility, and were told through an oppressive air of stoic, alienating observation. From this vantage, overseeing a world in which violence, sexuality with abandon, and the suggestively metaphysical are the norm, his genre bending neo-noir were presented in the most lurid and hyper-kinetic of color and resolution palettes. Enriching this concoction, his most recent descent into the underworld of southern California and Central America enlisted crime comics writer Ed Brubaker, who delivered a labyrinthine and clockwork complexity not previously seen in Refn's screenwriting. The resulting "Nicolas Winding Refn Dead-Eyed LA Nightmare" as Peter Bradshaw calls it in the pages of The Guardian, stands as one of the first series to have its premiere at Cannes. But in short order, the show's fatal combination of marginal popularity, combined with stoked online controversy, resulted in it being almost instantly cancelled upon release. Yet "Too Old to Die Young" distinguishes itself as one of the more bold and uncommon properties that Amazon has chosen to fund. The series is every bit as hypnotically horrific and unsettling as one would expect. With terse lines, extended pauses and dead-eyed glares, its protagonists, (if they can be referred to as such) deliver an array of doom-ridden exercises in corruption, revenge, violence, philosophical musings, and sociopathic motivations, set in a largely sepulchral neon-lit underworld of madness, paranoia and fear.

So divisive is it in fact, that the show's detractors are likely the greatest chroniclers of its various (either indulgently reprehensible or libertine, depending on taste) qualities. For the adventurous, with a stomach for the unsavory and an eye for kinetic style and form, there are few longform prestige tv experiences that even approach what Nicholas Barber and David Fear detail in their reviews, for the BBC and Rolling Stone respectively. First from the pages of "Too Old to Die Young: ‘Evil at its Most Sordid’"; "As Ed Brubaker indicates, "Too Old to Die Young" is so representative of the director’s work that it could be a deliberate self-parody. The expressionless hero is sometimes indistinguishable from a waxwork dummy; the corruption and cruelty go past the human and into the realm of the demonic; the lighting is so trippy that you could be watching a science-fiction film; and the gratuitous nudity is as gratuitous as it gets, as if Refn were intent on annoying anyone who had ever accused him of misogyny and exploitation. NWR is definitely NSFW." Secondly, reviewed in "‘Too Old to Die Young’: Only God Forgives this Sh*tshow"; "Let’s hope most folks are coming to "Too Old to Die Young'', the Danish writer-director’s pulpy-as-f*ck TV series for Amazon, as something akin to fans. Or, at the very least, as viewers semi-aware of his back catalog. Because God help you if this is your first official entry into Refnworld - it’s either the worst possible introduction to his signature brand of steroidally stylized neon noir, or the “best” introduction in the worst possible way. Mileage, as always with this provocateur, varies to a divisive degree. To anyone dropped into his landscape of stoic antiheroes and lurid violence and water-torture pacing without a map, we wish you the best of luck."